About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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The Healing Power of Vacation

Recently I was looking back on previous articles, and I came across one that I had written several years ago about taking vacation as a way to create balance between work and rest. My first reaction in reading the article was how smug I was at the time; telling readers to take more vacation and why. However, under the heading of taking my own advice, I realize that during the 15 years that I’ve been in practice, I’ve only taken a vacation that was longer than a week just once—back in 2004. Furthermore, many of the vacations that I take go from mid-week to mid-week, to avoid being gone from the office for an entire week at a time. Not a very good vacation track record.

I could bChinese medicine for recovery and rejuvenationeat myself up about this, but I realize that my hesitation to be gone from the office is incredibly common, and the statistics about this are surprising and sad. First of all, many Americans are employed in part-time work, not necessarily by choice, but because their employers want to avoid paying them health benefits or vacation time.  However, among full-time workers, according to Marketwatch, more than half don’t take any vacation. At all! This translates into about 658 million days of vacation that are left on the table yearly, and 222 million of those days are completely lost. If you averaged that out, it would mean that each and every working American put in two free days of work every year!

Why do we do this? According to research from Project Time Off, there are a number of reasons. Employees say that:

  • They don’t want to return to a mountain of work
  • They feel like no one else can do their job
  • They can’t afford to take a vacation
  • It feels harder to take time off as an employee grows within their company
  • They want to show dedication
  • They don’t want to be seen as replaceable
  • Their boss doesn’t support taking time off—reported by an amazing 65% of workers

The downside to this trend, and it is a trend—we take about 4 vacation days less now than we did in 1978—is that employees who take less vacation are statistically less likely to receive raises or bonuses. Counterintuitive, but true.

From the standpoint of Chinese medicine, working too hard, working long hours, and work-related stress depletes your energy and makes you more prone to illnesses. Furthermore, the stress of long and demanding stints with your nose to the grindstone causes a kind of stagnation that jams up your body systems; everything from immunity to sleep to digestion can be negatively affected. On the flip side, your body repairs and rejuvenates itself when you rest. It’s fair to say that taking time off from work is actually good for your health.

In an effort to put my money where my mouth is, walk the walk, and improve my health I am taking a Real Vacation. My plan is to take almost a month off at the end of May to drive solo throughout the Southwestern United States.  It’s great self-care, and as a self-employed person, I have found my boss to be very supportive of this decision.

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